New year brings change

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The North Iowa Times unveiled its new masthead this week.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Did you do a double-take when you picked up this week’s North Iowa Times? For the first time in my 6.5-year tenure as editor—and even several years before that—the newspaper has a new masthead. We’ve also updated our fonts and added a sixth column in the interior of the paper, the latter a move to better mesh with our sister publications in the Morris Newspapers of Wisconsin group.

Why the aesthetic changes? In short, I felt it was time. With the start of a new year and a new decade, what better opportunity to start fresh? I spent weeks combing through Pinterest posts and other newspapers’ mastheads for inspiration, then several late nights on my laptop furiously designing idea after idea, finally settling on a version I believe is modern yet also pays homage to the history of the North Iowa Times.

I also can’t help but feel that, in 2020, we’re on the precipice of even greater change in the news industry. A report from the University of North Carolina found that 1,800 local newspapers—one in five—closed from 2004 to 2018. A third of them were in rural communities, leaving segments of the population without reliable coverage of city government, schools, business and human interest stories that reflect the town’s values, history and vitality.

Who, or what, fills those gaps when a local newspaper is gone? Are residents going to, all of a sudden, start attending city council and school board meetings? Will your Facebook “friends” accurately convey updates on flooding or tornadoes, sift through legal filings and DNR reports to investigate a controversial energy facility, interview the coach after his team wins the district title, or gather remembrances from a WWII veteran? Will the regional daily newspapers or TV stations show up to the opening of your business or unveiling of your splash pad? Will your grainy cellphone photo truly capture the game-winning basket or the glee on a child’s face at the community Easter egg hunt?

When asked about the changing media landscape and what the future of my career holds, I often tell people that I feel local news is better positioned than many outlets to weather the economic and technological storm. As noted above, we cover news no other entity provides—sometimes all of those things in the same week. We’re increasingly online and social media savvy.

Local journalists are also invested in their communities in ways those working at the state and national levels are not. We live in our communities, serve on chamber and museum boards, donate to school groups and shop at small businesses. Even though it comes with the territory of the job, I give up nights and weekends, even holidays, to cover meetings, events and sports. I plan for three weeks just to take off one week because I want to assure coverage doesn’t lapse while I’m gone. I laugh and cry with you through good times and bad, and I spend hours reporting on and writing an article in the hopes that it will make you think, help you understand or elicit pride in the place we call home.

So how can you support the North Iowa Times and other local newspapers, assuring this continues? Subscribe to the print or online edition, or regularly pick up a copy on the news stand. As some of you may have noticed, we raised our prices for the first time in years, to keep up with rising postage and printing costs, tariffs and general inflation. Still, $26 for a one-year subscription—or $1 on the news stand—is a pretty good deal. An online version, which also includes full access to the Courier Press, Clayton County Register and The Guttenberg Press, is just $30.

You can also advertise. While I love to support your businesses and events, it’s nice to receive that love in return. We offer ways to promote yourself in print and on our website, and have also begun experimenting with social media, using our broad reach to help advertisers connect with new people.

Lastly, share the North Iowa Times’—the communities’—stories. Start a discussion with your friends and family and pass articles around Facebook. Let me know if you have ideas or would like to see certain topics covered. The more we work together, and the better informed we all are, the stronger our communities will be.

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